The Great Debate UK
–Gerard Lyons is chief economist at Standard Chartered. Any opinions expressed are his own. –
Britain is clearly a Jekyll and Hyde economy. Or that at least is what the Chancellor would like us to believe. The bad news we are now seeing in the economy, public finances and across parts of the financial sector will not last. We are in the Mr Hyde phase. But, don’t worry, we will soon be back to the normal Dr Jekyll soon.
The Chancellor believes the recession will end by year end. That is credible. But then he believes recovery will be rapid, and after contracting 3.5 percent in 2009 we will see growth of 1.25 percent in 2010 and 3.5 percent in 2011. This is fantasy, particularly as this rapid rebound is expected to occur not only as the legacy of the debt bust lingers on, but also as fiscal policy is tightened aggressively through significant tax hikes, largely on those on high incomes.
Strong growth, tax increases and efficiency savings are, the Chancellor believes, about to reduce the budget deficit by half over the next four years. I have my doubts. The legacy of this borrowing binge will live on for much longer.
from Luke Baker:
For the best part of 12 years, Labour has pursued essentially conservative (with a small 'c') economic policies, steadily underburdening itself of the 'fiscally unreliable' tag that some earlier Labour administrations were (wrongly or rightly) saddled with.
And for most of the past 12 years, as the global economy steadily expanded and Britain's along with it, with aggregate wealth rising smoothly, Labour looked strong at the helm each time the budget came around.
The outcome of this financial crisis depends on the economic fundamentals, the policy response and confidence. Chancellor Alistair Darling presents this Budget in an environment where the fundamentals are poor, confidence has been shot to pieces and the credibility of policy and his ability to spend any more is being widely questioned.
from Africa News blog:
Earlier this month, Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo argued that Africa needs Western countries to cut long term aid that has brought dependency, distorted economies and fuelled bureaucracy and corruption. The comments on the blog posting suggested that many readers agreed. In a response, Savio Carvalho, Uganda country director for aid agency Oxfam GB, says that aid can help the continent escape poverty - if done in the right way:
In early January, I travelled to war-ravaged northern Uganda to a dusty village in Pobura and Kal parish in Kitgum District. We were there to see the completion of a 16km dirt road constructed by the community with support from Oxfam under an EU-funded programme.
from The Great Debate:
Rising unemployment is the now the largest single threat to attempts to stabilize the banking system through recapitalization and assets swaps designed to remove toxic assets from bank balance sheets.
It is also the main impediment to restarting bank lending, renewing output growth and preventing debt-deflation becoming entrenched.
from Africa News blog:
Far from being all bad news for Africa, the global financial crisis is a chance to break a dependence on development aid that has kept it in poverty, argues Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, who has just published a new book “Dead Aid”.
Moyo’s book, her first, comes out at a time when Western campaigners, financial institutions and some African governments have been warning of the danger posed to Africa by the crisis and calling for more money from developed countries as a result. The former World Bank and Goldman Sachs economist spoke to Reuters in London.
from The Great Debate:
The chaos generated by the meltdown of the global economic system provides environmentalists and human rights advocates with utopian opportunities to promote a new economic model, which will not only help sustain life on our planet, but actually increase its quality for many.
As world leaders search for creative solutions to restore global equilibrium, the opportunity for recognising the importance of both human and environmental capital has perhaps never been so possible or achievable.
Recognising all three types of capital: financial, environmental and human, will help us to build the equivalent of a balanced three-legged stool . Hopefully, this stool will be more stable than the current one-legged model of financial capital.
Last week the United Nations Environment Program recommended the business world use the global downturn to press ahead with green technologies that will save firms money and help save the planet. It also recommended using micro-finance loans to help developing countries provide sustainable solutions in such places as Bangladesh where small loans have allowed women entrepreneurs to install solar panels and bring electricity to 100,000 homes.
Society has been operating on the belief that if the engines of capitalism are powered to churn constantly, wealth will prevail and all of human society will benefit. But this system has served to create great income disparities by generating incredible wealth and incredible poverty, and has been the main driver in causing catastrophic environmental damage.
The unregulated, trickle-down financial policy is necessary to generate positive GDP figures, but traditionally these data do not include the cost of rainforest or biodiversity loss. Thanks to the United Nations Green Economy Initiative, and the work being undertaken by Pavan Sukhdev and his colleagues who are engaged in the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity project, we can now put GDP-like values on these losses.
As a result, we are beginning to recognise that the credit crunch in the financial markets is a minnow in comparison to the credit crunch in our environment and biodiversity systems. It appears that we have been “borrowing” $2.5 trillion every year for the last 25 years without any significant compensating payback.
Over time, we may acquire the wisdom to realise that what traditional economics considers “externalities”, as if they were irrelevant, are closer to our survival needs than the creation of economic wealth. The 90 pence we pay for a litre of petrol is divided between government tax and profit for the oil company, but who picks up the tab for the damage that is done by burning the fuel in the atmosphere? We privatise profit and we socialise loss.
We need to start valuing people first, and then we will collectively begin to operate on the principle that the environment is not just another word for commodity market, but that it supports life. Valuing human capital means acknowledging that each person on this planet is entitled to fresh water, nutritious food, proper shelter, healthcare, education, justice and access to capital. This way we can release the creative potential of all of humanity. Only when we are clear on these values can we create a financial system that serves it.
The current financial credit drivers are akin to the booster rockets on a space craft. In the same way as the boosters blast the craft free of the Earth’s atmosphere and gravitational pull, so the current financial system has created wealth, education and freedom for 1.5 billion people. But for many - the remaining 4.5 billion - the cost has been very great and to our ecosystems it has been disastrous. The skill in a space shot is knowing when to blow the explosive bolts, releasing the boosters and continuing the mission with the second stage only. Our skill will be in jettisoning our current economic model and designing a new and more inclusive “second stage”.
What we should be talking about now at a strategic level is urgently restructuring our monetary system into a non-debt, or minimal-based debt structure using Sharia-type finance and complementary currencies with government spending money directly into circulation.
In whichever way we choose as a society to tackle the global financial crisis, we must create a system that protects and nurtures all of humanity and the environment before it is too late.
An inspirational quote attributed to a North American First Nations Chief Seattle states: “We are all connected like the blood that unites one family. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not create the web of life, but he is part of it, whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
These words written more than one hundred years ago speak directly to us today. Will we have the intelligence to listen?
from The Great Debate:
Much of the world's attention is fixed on the brutal effects of the global financial crisis.
But sooner or later - sooner we hope - the global economy will rebound. Markets will recover, and stocks will rise. Nature, on the other hand, does not do bailouts. The effects of today's greenhouse gas emissions - like those of yesterday and tomorrow - will be permanent, at least in the timescales that we care about.
from The Great Debate:
With business and consumer confidence fading, the prospects for the global economy appear the worst for a generation. Amid the gathering gloom, are things really that bad? And can nothing be done to give the global growth engine a kick-start?
Reuters asked delegates at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos for their views.
(UPDATED Dec 18 – This post is now closed for questions)
Conservative Party leader David Cameron will be speaking on the economy and the credit crunch at Thomson Reuters’ Canary Wharf office on Monday, followed by a question and answer session.
The Tory leader has argued that two main problems face Britain at present – a recession coupled with a record level of government debt, and that the government is trying to tackle one while ignoring the other.